Toxic plants and chem­i­cals

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - NEWS - with Dr Kate Nor­man VET­ERI­NAR­IAN

KEEP­ING our dogs and cats safe from po­ten­tially toxic plants and chem­i­cals re­quire us to know what to look out for. The fol­low­ing are just a few com­mon plants and chem­i­cals used in the gar­den.


Fox­glove and ole­an­der con­tain car­diac gly­co­sides, a toxin that can cause vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, weak­ness, mus­cle tremors, dif­fi­culty breath­ing, car­diac ar­rhyth­mias, heart failure and death. In the case of ole­an­der, the toxin re­mains in the leaves and branches long af­ter clip­pings have dried and in some in­stances poi­son­ings oc­cur as the plant no longer has any odour or taste. Gar­lic, onion, leeks and chives all con­tains var­i­ous amount of organosul­fox­ides, toxic to cats and dogs. Clin­i­cal signs vary de­pend­ing on whether in­ges­tion oc­curs in small amounts over long pe­ri­ods or large amounts in the short term. They in­clude vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, ab­dom­i­nal pain, weak­ness, anaemia and ex­er­cise in­tol­er­ance. Daf­fodil con­tains al­ka­loids and ox­alates, the bulb be­ing the most toxic part of the plant. Clin­i­cal signs in­clude vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea, oral ir­ri­ta­tion, drowsi­ness and con­vul­sions. Lilies are toxic to cats when in­gested and cause acute re­nal failure, which can lead to death very quickly and of­ten re­quires prompt and ag­gres­sive vet­eri­nary in­ter­ven­tion. Un­for­tu­nately treat­ment is not al­ways suc­cess­ful when try­ing to re­store kid­ney func­tion and long term kid­ney dam­age is of ma­jor con­cern. Grapes are toxic to dogs. 40 grams of fresh grapes con­sists of a toxic dose caus­ing kid­ney dam­age. Acute re­nal failure and ir­re­versible kid­ney dam­age can oc­cur. Sago palm is toxic to dogs when in­gested. It can cause vom­it­ing, lethargy and di­ar­rhoea. In its most se­vere form it can lead to neu­ro­log­i­cal signs, jaun­dice, spon­ta­neous bleed­ing and liver failure. More se­vere clin­i­cal signs can take weeks or months to oc­cur and it is as­so­ci­ated with a 50 per cent mor­tal­ity rate.


Snail bait typ­i­cally con­tains met­alde­hyde, how­ever there are some prod­ucts on the mar­ket that use dif­fer­ent chem­i­cal com­pounds and check­ing the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent on the pack­ag­ing will shed light on the type of chem­i­cal used. Met­alde­hyde tox­i­c­ity fol­low­ing in­ges­tion causes se­vere un­con­trol­lable mus­cle tremors and hy­per­ther­mia (over­heat­ing). Clin­i­cal signs en­sue 1-3 hours af­ter in­ges­tion and there is no an­ti­dote. Treat­ment con­sists of de­con­tam­i­na­tion of the gas­troin­testi­nal tract and sup­port­ive care whilst the ab­sorbed toxin is cleared from the body. Cases of tox­i­c­ity are of­ten se­vere and can be fa­tal. If you wit­ness your dog or cat in­gest­ing snail bait, con­tact­ing your vet im­me­di­ately is strongly ad­vised. Pyrethroid based in­sec­ti­cides are toxic to cats. Con­tact with the skin and in­ges­tion cause ex­ces­sive drool­ing, ag­i­ta­tion, vom­it­ing, in­co­or­di­na­tion, tremors, seizures and dif­fi­culty breath­ing. Ex­po­sure can be fa­tal and prompt vet­eri­nary in­ter­ven­tion is re­quired fol­low­ing ex­po­sure. If you are con­cerned your pet may have been ex­posed to a toxic plant or chem­i­cal it is best to ring your vet for expert ad­vice.

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